By: Dominique Johnson
Recently I was gifted a shirt with the Lion King characters Mufasa and his son Simba with the words “Dad goals” above. This shirt made me think of the goals we should set as dads to lead our children to Christ.
Like the t-shirt, we find parenting examples in tv shows and movies that don’t accurately depict how the Church calls us to parent. As Catholics, the vocation of marriage and parenthood should build what is called the Domestic Church. The vision of the Domestic Church in the Catechism of the Catholic Church envisions that the father and mother with their children “exercise the priesthood of the baptized in a privileged way by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, and self-denial and active charity.” The Catechism also says, “Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children.”
As fathers, we should work with our wives to be the first teachers of the faith to our children. In a society that is continuously leading people away from religion, we must stand firm in our faith and make sure our children know the teachings and love of God.
As a father of two daughters, I have experienced first hand how it can be a balancing act having a job, educating my children, finding time for extra-curricular activities. This makes it is easy to place faith on the backburner. Faith though, is first learned at home, through parents. If God isn’t reflected through us as parents in our prayer life, in our participation at Mass, then why would we expect our children to practice the faith. Children learn through imitation. A child learns to walk because he sees his parents walk. A child learns to pray by watching his parents pray.
I remember when my wife and I first introduced the rosary to our oldest daughter when she was two. Getting through one decade was rough. She would squirm and lay down on the floor, but we understood that she was only two and not to place the expectations of an adult on her. Through the praying of the rosary she learned her prayers, and that God gave her ten fingers and toes that she could follow along with too if her children’s rosary was misplaced.
To help us become better leaders of the faith in our homes, we should look to the saints. It is the example of saints like St. Louis Martin, the father of St. Therese of Lisieux, who have helped guide me as a father with examples of how he shared the faith with his children. The Martin family attended daily Mass together, prayed devotionals together at home and read the biographies of the saints together. Following this example of faith doesn’t mean that we can’t have fun with our children either. St. Louis Martin was a father like most of us and in his writings said, “I am a big child with my children.”
St. Louis alone didn’t help teach his children about God and the Church; he had the support of his wife St. Zelie Martin, and as a team they made it their responsibility to share the faith and to make it a priority in their household.
It’s as simple as praying with our children daily, reading scripture with them and teaching them about the saints. It doesn’t mean we cut out other activities, but that we place our priorities on Christ who leads us to salvation.
This Father’s Day, let us continue to work towards the goal of helping our children know Christ and His purpose for their lives; by following the examples set for us by the saints and our own fathers and grandfathers who have pointed us in the direction of our savior.